It is often said the most important season for a young player occurs between the first and second years.
They have been around the league once before and know the drill and grind. They have a frame of reference to compare their play and where it is to where it needs to be. They also have the freedom after the season ends to go right to work. No preparing for the Draft or poking and prodding. The teams have told them where they would like to improve and they know where to improve.
The offseason workouts for the young players on the Magic roster are especially key as the Magic continue to grow and rebuild. This summer Maurice Harkless, Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson went through his first offseason (training camp too). Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Doron Lamb each had the summer to build off the opportunity the Magic provided.
By all appearances and accounts just about everyone put on muscle this summer. Andrew Nicholson is clearly a bit bigger. So too is Maurice Harkless, who said he wanted to put on more muscle to better absorb contact. Tobias Harris reportedly picked up more than 10 pounds of muscle. These young guys are seeing their bodies change.
What is surprising is that it was in this area that the Magic probably had their biggest loss this offseason.
Longtime Magic strength and conditioning coach Joe Rogowski left the Magic in mid-July to work for the Rockets (and so he could live closer to his fiance). Rogowski stayed with the team through Summer League and a few weeks after before making the transition.
Bill Burgos spent the last two years as the strength and conditioning coach for the Knicks. But he was with the Magic working with Rogowski from 2009-11. Burgos is very experienced in sports strength and conditioning having also worked in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
For a team with a lot of young players, this is an extremely important position as they continue to grow and develop. Fortunately for the Magic, these players were committed to themselves and had a good baseline to start from.
"It was big," Kyle O'Quinn said of the switch. "The biggest part was Joe set the tone before he left. He gave us his time. The way we worked out, we were like, 'Man we didn't want to work out less than that going forward.' When Bill got here, we let him know to stay on us. We don't mind. Joe did that and it just helped us out being better pros."
Having a mature group of players willing and ready to work certainly helped in the transition.
O'Quinn said he worked on his body and on his eating habits this offseason. That was something Rogowski stressed to his charges before leaving.
Often these could be difficult things for young players. But this has been a strong group that has put the work in this offseason to make the most of their time. Even with the transition.
Burgos has hit the ground running and built off of the work Rogowski has done. The players will feel that burn throughout the season and as they develop.
"I think overall, for a lot of our guys this was their first offseason training as professional athletes," Jacque Vaughn said. "You think you're in shape when you come to this league. You're not. That challenge metnally and physically. They did a good job of physically taking care of that, of being in the weight room, eating better, putting themselves condition-wise to be better off. That's the challenge of being a professional athlete."
The work is just beginning.